It seems that scammers are everywhere. The legal world is no exception. Here are some to be aware of.
The Jury Duty Scam: Please know that the Clerk of Court or Sheriff will never call or email you demanding money if you’ve missed jury duty. In the scam, a caller or an email says that you have missed jury duty. They threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay your “fine” by credit card over the phone or by sending a prepaid debit card the next day. In reality, if you don’t appear after you’ve been properly served with a jury duty summons, the Clerk’s office will serve you with a follow-up notice requiring that you appear for a contempt hearing at which a fine is possible. However, if you contact the Clerk’s office with a good reason and ask them to reschedule your service, that will usually resolve the problem without a fine.
The New Business Scam: When a new corporation or LLC is formed by filing Articles with the NC Secretary of State’s office (which is a public record), scammers contact the new businesses telling them they are required to have a “certified copy” of their Articles, which the company will do for a fee. You don’t need that. You will automatically receive a file-stamped copy of your Articles directly from the Secretary of State, and that makes your business official.
Tax Scam: A phone call or email pretends to be from the IRS. You are told that you’ve failed to pay taxes that are due, and you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay now by credit card or prepaid debit card. Please know that if you owe unpaid taxes, the IRS will send you multiple letters explaining the problem and asking you to get in touch with them. They will not call or email you out of the blue. Scammers are good at making the phone number on caller ID or the email address look official.
Speaking of taxes, although the companies that advertise heavily about dealing with the IRS on your behalf are legitimate businesses and not a scam, there may be a better option. Before hiring one of them, consider the free IRS Taxpayer Advocate office. They can be found at www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov or at 336-574-6119 for their NC office located in Greensboro. It is a special department within the IRS that does nothing but assist taxpayers who have common problems like not being able to pay their taxes or not filing returns. They are not IRS collection agents. If you are not satisfied after talking to the IRS Taxpayer Advocate, consider hiring an individual accountant or tax attorney to represent you to the IRS, depending on the nature of your tax problem. Clients tell me they generally get better customer service with one of those individuals than with the large companies who advertise heavily. By the way, I’m not a tax lawyer, so I don’t represent clients before the IRS, but I can refer you to a tax lawyer who will treat you right.
Kim K. Steffan is an attorney with Steffan & Associates, P.C. in Hillsborough, NC. She can be reached at 919-732-7300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was last updated in January 2020.